The Seven Last Words
" 'Woman, behold thy son.' Then He saith to the disciple: 'Behold thy Mother' "
"Jesus has left us the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in which we offer, through Him, with Him, and in Him, His precious Body and Blood to the Father, and which become, in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, our heavenly food. By receiving this precious gift, we share in the paschal mystery, the mystery of His Suffering, Death, and glorious Resurrection. He has not left us orphans; He will be with us until the end of time. "
Editor's Note: In Father Louis Campbell's reflection for Good Friday, he reflects on the the Seven Last Words spoken by Christ on the Cross as recorded in the Gospels. The insight Father shares points to the indefectability of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and for the need to cling to the Truths and Traditions handed down and set in stone by the infallible, perennial Magisterium of the Church established upon the Rock of the Primacy of Peter. Even in these darkest of times when so many are in apostasy, we can take heart from Our Lord's Passion and Death for we know that hope is just around the corner for God will not fail us. We have His promise on that as Father points out in his reflections on The Seven Last Words.
"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Lk.23:34).
It is not a matter of innocence, but Jesus' tormentors are not aware of the enormity of their sin. They have crucified hundreds before, though never in so cruel a manner. To them Jesus is just another man. In reality theirs is the sin of deicide, since they are crucifying God's only-begotten Son. The true Lamb of God is slain for the sins of the world. This is the true Holocaust, the one, all-atoning Sacrifice acceptable to the Father, in which Jesus Christ is both Priest and Victim. But even as Jesus suffers, He teaches us to forgive our enemies: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." The centurion and his men, terrified at the quaking of the earth and the splitting of the rocks at the moment of Jesus' death, finally realize what they have done, and confess, "Truly he was the Son of God" (Mt.27:54).
"Amen, I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with Me in paradise" (Lk.23:43).
The Good Thief, whom Jesus forgives from the cross, is known to tradition as St. Dismas. It gives hope to us sinners that such a brief expression of repentance brings forth a promise of eternal happiness. But his repentance is real, as he says to the other thief, "Dost not even thou fear God, seeing that thou art under the same sentence? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what our deeds deserved; but this man has done nothing wrong" (Lk.23:40,41). And looking upon Jesus he recognizes Him as the Christ, saying, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into Thy kingdom" (Lk.23:42). In return he hears those words which we all hope to hear some day: "Amen, I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with Me in paradise."
" 'Woman, behold thy son.' Then He saith to the disciple: 'Behold thy Mother' " Jn.19:26,27).
It may seem strange that in St. John's Gospel, the two persons to whom Jesus addresses these words are not identified by name. It is clear that John himself is "the disciple", but throughout this Gospel he does not identify himself. He is simply "the disciple whom Jesus loved."
Mary herself is called either "the mother of Jesus" or "Woman," but never "Mary." John seems to be saying to us, "This is not just Mary of Nazareth, she is the Mother, and she is the Woman that was foretold in Genesis, who would not submit to Satan, as Eve did, but would crush his head with her heel, that is, she would defeat him. At the moment of her Immaculate Conception in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, she has already defeated him. And for all time, they would be in bitter conflict, the devil going about like a roaring lion seeking the ruin of souls, and Mary defending and interceding for her children with her Divine Son. The Church recognizes Mary as the Woman clothed with the sun, crowned with twelve stars, with the moon under her feet, whose war with the Red Dragon is described in the last book of the Bible, the Apocalypse.
Was it out of humility then, that John concealed his own identity as "the disciple"? John conceals his own personal identity so that when you read this Gospel you may see yourself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved," and that you may hear Jesus say to you from the cross: "Behold, your Mother!"
4. "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Mt.27:46: Mk.15:34).
With these words Jesus expresses His utter desolation - He is totally alone in death. Mankind has betrayed Him; the Father has left Him to suffer the torments of the cross alone. Yet there is more here than an expression of desolation. Jesus is repeating the first line of a psalm (Psalm 21) bringing to our attention the prophetic words written a thousand years before His time by His ancestor, King David, foretelling the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ in amazing detail:
"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me, far from my prayer, from the words of my cry? O my God, I cry out by day, and you answer not; by night, and there is no relief for me…But I am a worm, not a man; the scorn of men, despised by the people. All who see me scoff at me; they mock me with parted lips, they wag their heads: 'He relied on the Lord; let him deliver him, let him rescue him, if he loves him.'…Be not far from me, for I am in distress; be near, for I have no one to help me. Many bullocks surround me; the strong bulls of Basan encircle me. They open their mouths against me like ravening and roaring lions. I am like water poured out; all my bones are racked. My heart has become like wax melting away within my bosom. My throat is dried up like baked clay, my tongue cleaves to my jaws; to the dust of earth you have brought me down.
"Indeed, many dogs surround me, a pack of evildoers closes in upon me; they have pierced my hands and my feet; I can count all my bones. They look on and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots. But you, O Lord, be not far from me…
"All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; all the families of the nations shall bow down before him. For dominion is the Lord's, and he rules the nations. To him alone shall bow down all who sleep in the earth; before him shall bend all who go down into the dust. And to him my soul shall live; my descendants shall serve him. Let the coming generation be told of the Lord that they may proclaim to a people yet to be born the justice he has shown" (Ps.21:2,3;7-9;12-20;28-32).
5. "I thirst" ((Jn.19:28).
Along with the terrible spiritual desolation, Jesus suffered the most intense and agonizing physical distress. A terrible thirst was not the least of them, as we heard from the psalm, "My throat is dried up like baked clay, my tongue cleaves to my jaws." Yet we can be sure that St. John is not speaking here of physical thirst alone, but of the thirst of Jesus for souls. Perhaps He knew at that terrible moment that in spite of His supreme sacrifice, many souls would refuse the salvation gained by the shedding of His Precious Blood, and would suffer the torments of hell forever. His suffering for them would be in vain.
Surely we wish to spare Him this additional suffering. Join me in this resolution: I resolve not to be one of those for whom the Son of God suffered in vain! I will repent of my sins! I will console Him in His agony! I will return love for love!
6. "It is consummated" (Jn.19:30).
This, the sixth word, has been understood as an expression by the Son of God that all has been accomplished, His redemptive work has been completed, and He may now take leave of His life on this earth. While this may be true, we must try to understand exactly what Jesus is saying. The unity between what transpired at the Last Supper and the Sacrifice of Calvary must be understood and pondered.
At the Last Supper, Jesus shared the cup of wine three times with the Apostles, the third time sharing the consecrated wine of His Precious Blood. Some have been puzzled by the fact that Jesus did not offer the fourth cup, since a fourth and final cup was always offered at the Jewish Passover Meal. But St. Matthew simply says, "After reciting a hymn, they went out to Mount Olivet" (Mt.26:30). Yet, as others have pointed out, Jesus does speak of another cup. During His agony and bloody sweat in the Garden of Olives that night Jesus prayed: "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from Me. Yet not as I will, but as Thou willest." As His Precious Blood was being poured out during His three hours agony upon the cross, the soldiers, dipping a hyssop branch in sour wine, offered it to Jesus, Who received it, and then said, "It is finished." Jesus had taken the fourth cup. The mystery of salvation, which began at the Last Supper, was now completed, as the true Lamb of God shed His Precious Blood for the sins of the world.
7. "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit" (Lk.23:46).
Jesus, His suffering now past, returns to the Father, to reign with Him and the Holy Ghost forever and ever. The true account of His sufferings is left to us in the four Gospels. The record of His scourging, His crowning with thorns and His five sacred wounds, has also been left to us in the holy shroud of Turin, from which we also have received the true image of His Holy Face, reflecting the Divine Wisdom and the unutterable peace of God. There are other holy relics, the wood of the true cross, the implements of His Passion, and the sign Pilate commanded to be placed on the cross bearing the inscription, "This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." These relics the Church has treasured and guarded carefully for two thousand years.
In particular, Jesus has left us the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in which we offer, through Him, with Him, and in Him, His precious Body and Blood to the Father, and which become, in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, our heavenly food. By receiving this precious gift, we share in the paschal mystery, the mystery of His Suffering, Death, and glorious Resurrection. He has not left us orphans; He will be with us until the end of time.
Father Louis J. Campbell
vol 14, no. 21
"Qui legit, intelligat"
Father Louis Campbell's Sunday Sermons